Written by Julie Babayan
Lawmakers including Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy Chairman Al Franken (D-MN) and House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus Co-Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) are scrutinizing Apple Inc.’s and Google Inc.’s practices of tracking users’ location information through their mobile phones. Franken will preside over a hearing next month entitled “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy.” Meanwhile, Markey noted in a statement that he plans to introduce a bill to protect children’s mobile privacy with a Do Not Track requirement. Markey was an author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), and has indicated an interest in updating COPPA, as well as in using Do Not Track technology to restrict the type of information websites may collect about the browsing habits of children. In addition, according to a House Energy and Commerce Committee press release, leaders in the committee – including Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI); Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Vice Chair Lee Terry (R-NE); and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and Vice Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – sent letters to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Research in Motion, and HP, asking the developers of mobile device operating systems if they were tracking, storing, and sharing users’ locations.
In an article on Monday, The Wall Street Journal followed up on an earlier article it published last week reporting that Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Google Inc.’s Android smartphones regularly transmit users’ location information back to Apple and Google. The Wall Street Journal reported that the companies are compiling databases capable of pinpointing users’ locations through their mobile phones in an effort to tap the $2.9 billion market for location-based services. Monday’s article reported that iPhones continue to collect and store location information even after the location services are turned off.